BUILDING ON ANOTHER GOOD FINISH: For the second week in a row and the third time this season, William Byron scored a top-10 finish in the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 last Sunday. Byron, the leader of the NASCAR Cup Series rookie-of-the-year standings by 96 points, had another solid race in his first trip to Watkins Glen International in a Cup car. The No. 24 team executed well from start to finish of the 90-lap event to help him earn an eighth-place result. The top-10 finish, along with the eight bonus points Byron earned for finishing third in Stage 1, helped propel him up one spot to 20th in the overall point standings. Byron’s latest two finishes – sixth at Pocono and eighth at Watkins Glen – tie him for fifth among current Cup drivers with the best average finish over the last two races.
MICHIGAN STATS: Byron will make his second Cup Series start at Michigan International Speedway this weekend. The rookie of the year contender earned a top-15 finish at the track in early June after qualifying 14th and earning points in both stages before coming home 13th in the rain-shortened event. Byron has also experienced success at the two-mile oval in the other NASCAR national series. In his lone Xfinity Series race at Michigan, he started fourth and finished second, just missing the win after leading eight of the final nine laps of the race. Byron rebounded to win the next two Xfinity Series races at Iowa and Daytona. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has one start at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016, when he qualified third and led nine laps en route to a fourth-place finish.
TOUGH TO WIN: Michigan International Speedway is notoriously a tough place for a rookie driver to earn a Cup Series win, or for any Cup driver to score their first win. Only two drivers have accomplished the feat of earning their first win at Michigan – Dale Jarrett in 1991 and Kyle Larson in 2016. On a positive note for Byron going into this weekend, history shows that while it may be tough to break through for the win, rookies have racked up solid results at the two-mile oval. Through the years, 10 rookies have earned top-three finishes at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track, and two Hendrick Motorsports drivers earned top-three finishes in both the June and August events in their respective rookie seasons – Chase Elliott in 2016 and Jeff Gordon in 1993.
GRUBB’S LEADERSHIP: Byron is in good hands with his veteran crew chief, Darian Grubb. Ranking active Cup crew chiefs with the most wins, Grubb is part of a three-way tie for second with 23 wins. He leads the category among active crew chiefs for the number of wins with different drivers, earning those 23 wins with five different wheelmen.
LIBERTY RETURNS: The blue and red Liberty University colors will adorn the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the 11th time this season as the university strives to inspire current and prospective students to “ignite their dreams.” Liberty is the majority primary partner of the No. 24 team with 14 races in 2018, with the final three races as primary scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway. Liberty University, founded in 1971, offers more than 550 unique programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level. William Byron, a sophomore majoring in business communications, takes online classes at Liberty, which offers more than 250 programs online.
FINAL WEEK FOR HERTZ SWEEPS: Hertz is currently running a sweepstakes where with the booking of a Hertz rental car, fans have a chance to be entered to win a VIP race weekend experience in Phoenix, Arizona, by using the provided promotional code when booking the rental car. The grand prize includes a trip for four to Phoenix from Nov. 9-12, four VIP tickets to the Nov. 11 race at ISM Raceway, a meet-and-greet with Byron, a tour of the No. 24 Hertz hauler, pit box seating with pit and garage access, round-trip airfare, a three-night hotel stay, and, of course, a Hertz rental car. There is just one week left to enter the sweepstakes, which runs from July 1 to Aug. 15! Click here for more information or to enter.
William Byron on racing at Michigan:
“I think this race at Michigan will be a little different than the first race just because it will most likely be a little hotter than it was in June. I think you’ll need to move around a little more than in the first race, but we’ll still try to apply what we learned the first time. We were pretty good there in June, so hopefully the second time around is even better.”
Byron on visiting tracks for the second time in a Cup car:
“In the beginning of the year, I was going to the track trying not to make a mistake or finish poorly, and this time around, I’m more focused on going out there and trying to finish in the top five and run really competitively. For whatever reason, it seems like in the summertime something always clicks for me. I think I just start to get that routine of what we’re doing and I start to understand the race car a little bit better too. It’s pretty big to be able to go back to the same track again. I feel like the first time you’re just trying to do what you’ve seen other people do, whereas the second time you go, you know if something’s better or worse because you remember the feeling you had in the car the first time, and it helps with things like getting to pit road under green, for example. You definitely can see why experience matters and how that can help you be a better driver.”
Byron on the team gaining speed:
“I feel like we’re not guessing anymore on what is going to make the car fast. We’re picking a couple of things in the car that we’re fine-tuning instead of throwing a whole setup at the car. There’s not necessarily a magical setup, but we go to the track with an idea of exactly what is going to make the car better. It makes it a lot of fun. Darian and I are smiling a lot more. The team guys are smiling, and during the week we’re actually accomplishing a lot before we get to the track. The meetings are becoming more in-depth, which is good.”